Be a Stranger to Death: Know his Work

A first funeral for me was in our church. I was too young and didn’t know him. But I cried—it was so sad. Others did too. My family all asked me why I cried. A man I didn’t know had died. They took me to his funeral, and I cried because I felt so sad. Why did they ask me why? It was a funeral. I saw others cry. But I felt sad for his friends and family, and for him. My family seemed to be telling me that I should not cry or feel sad. They were telling me how I should feel.

It was my first taste of ultimate reality and sadness at a level I had not yet known. Six decades later I still recall their questions and the implication that I should not be sad because some man had died. And since I did not know him, I should not care about his death.

They knew him. But none of my family cried. I was confused by their lack of sadness. How could they not feel it? I didn’t wonder then why we went to the funeral, but I do now.

I should not feel emotion or act out my feelings if I do. I did not understand why others didn’t feel as I did. Too young, but already being told not to feel too deeply—to not be a sensitive man boy (later a man). Stoicism was and is associated with strength and manliness. Strong silence.

Years later I attended an emotional funeral for two young children of a workmate (auto accident). Later, another workmate criticised the people who cried at that funeral. I wonder more about former than the latter. How could he not cry and why criticize those who did?

Now, I am sometimes spoken of as a sensitive man by some; as one who reflects sensitivity back upon people. They say so because they read my writings. Not because of how I behave.

But not always. I suffer fools poorly and bullies with quite limited tolerance. I am sensitive to violence toward others, but I can do what it takes to be just and fair.

I cannot ask why they tried to teach me not to cry, or not to feel, or to be not sensitive about those who died. And they cannot answer. I doubt any would understand why. I went to their funerals and I cried because they had died and I loved them.

I cried when each of them died. Nobody asked me why. But I still hid my tears. I cried when I was alone. They had taught me well, but they never changed me. Show them only the face they wish to see. Be the strong, stoic, liar.

I remain an emotional little boy society calls sensitive (or weak or worse). They, in their curiously socialized hearts and minds will never understand me—nor will I, them.

Why cry? Must you ask?

Look both ways and deeply into the abyss of human emotions.
Mind the gaps but be consistent. Be yourself.

8 thoughts on “Be a Stranger to Death: Know his Work

  1. The core of our Christian culture ”They had taught me well, but they never changed me. Show them only the face they wish to see. Be the strong, stoic, liar.. Well spoken sir.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Right. Irish-Catholic is hard to explain and family history convolutes it even more. Not sure why I wrote that or what I am trying to say.
      Thanks for the compliment, Jim. I need to write more about what’s beyond the veil. Halloween is coming.

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  2. There’s nothing wrong with being a sensitive man or crying at a funeral, IMO. I think it’s good to question old cultural stereotypes and norms. Hopefully future generations will benefit.

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  3. Years ago, I read this book about Tin Men. It was a very good book, and provided me with a much better understanding of how hard it is for men to express sadness, grief, and fear. Apparently, we have generations of Tin Men in our culture.
    Not gonna lie, one of the hardest cries I ever suffered was my stoic FIL keening at the loss of his sister. It almost killed me. But I know he needed that cry and I was glad he had it. Quite glad his father wasn’t there to tell him to pull himself together or whatever.

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    1. Yes, Joey, you are right. It is not hard for me to cry, but it is very difficult for me to witness other men cry, especially my dad. I don’t know why. Sadness, grief, and fear – too bad we are not so hesitant in expressing anger.
      Visiting my daughter, 80 miles from Midland/Odessa, just up the road from the latest TX shootings.

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